Financial aid can help Californians cultivate their future

The state’s current economic downturn has provided many Californians, including farmworkers and/or their children, with the opportunity to begin or go back to college.

Many of these students are attending California community colleges, rather than more expensive four-year institutions. In fact, California Community Colleges are the state’s largest provider of affordable career training.

Still, many residents find it difficult to manage the financial burden a continuing education can bring.

The “I Can Afford College” campaign is a statewide, financial aid awareness initiative sponsored by the State of California and the California Community Colleges. The campaign educates current and prospective students that financial aid is available— now and year-round—to help make their dreams of higher education a reality.

The California Community Colleges supply workforce training, basic skills education and prepare students for transfer to four-year colleges and universities. They are the largest system of higher education in the nation with 112 colleges serving 2.76 million students per year. During the 2009-10 academic year, over one million of these students received financial aid totaling approximately $2.2 billion.

In spite of the large number of students receiving financial aid, there are likely many more that are eligible. Latino students now make up more than half of the students in California’s public schools, most of who will soon be heading to college. Currently, Latinos represent 30% of all Community College students, but only a portion of them are financial aid recipients, leaving a large portion unaccounted for.

Research shows many students don’t believe they qualify for aid and therefore do not apply, leaving millions of financial aid dollars unused. Financial aid, such as a fee waiver, grants, scholarships, work study programs and loans, is available year round to help students pay for fees, books, supplies, and sometimes even rent.

Students who enroll full-time may have access to more financial aid and are more likely to complete their education. All students who need assistance paying for college are encouraged to apply.

Visit the bilingual English and Spanish website, www.icanaffordcollege.com, for detailed financial aid information, to begin the application process and to locate financial aid events in your area where you can receive one-on-one assistance. Individuals who do not have Internet access can call 1-800-987-ICAN (4226).